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Showing posts from June, 2008

Swami Karpatriji

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I wanted to write a blog about the classes and lectures I listened to in Vrindavan, but I never got around to it. I did mention Prema Das's very enjoyable Chaitanya Charitamrita lectures at Radha Raman Nivas, but did not give a summary of the morning Bhagavata classes that I attended at the Krishna Balaram temple. I thought I would check the general temperature of Hari Katha at that noble institution and probably went to about eight or ten classes altogether, nearly every day someone different. I heard Radha Raman Swami twice, as he spoke in English one day and Hindi the next.

About those Iskcon lectures, I will only make one comment, and that is that I cannot recall having heard the name of Radha a single time, nor Vrindavan, nor the word prema. The only exception to this dearth of rasa was perhaps one young brahmachari who read a couple of songs by Jnana Das about Krishna's rupa.

It must be said, though, that as someone who likes to speak Harikatha, I cannot help salivating …

Madan Gopal Goswami Enters the Nitya Lila

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I received news yesterday from Anuradha and then Prem Gopal Goswami that Prabhupada Madan Gopal Goswami has departed this world. Though in my two visits to Nabadwip in the last several years I had hoped to meet Madan Prabhu, he was in Agartala both times. I heard that he had been in poor health and so it seems that we were not to see each other one last time before he undertook his Maha Prayan.

Madan Prabhu was my neighbor during the five years I spent in Nabadwip (1980-1985). The Judge Bari in Gokulananda Ghat was a privileged location, only a few minutes walk from the center of the town and the market, while at the same time being a large, quiet and green area with two tanks, in a rather unkept state, admittedly, but nevertheless protected from the throngs and traffic. The far wall on the southern side, across this empty space, was the boundary between this property and the home of Madan Prabhu.

Of course, Pran Gopal Goswami, Madan Prabhu's grandfather, was and still is a legend i…

Na Hanyate (Part 3)

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Love eternal

Obviously, we could go into a great deal more detail on practically every level of this story, but we have to stop somewhere for the sake of drawing some conclusions from this tale.

I wanted to start from the parallels were already made with the Bhagavatam. According to Sanatan Goswami, there were only some 30 years between Krishna’s departure from Vrindavan and the meeting in Kurukshetra. Even so, I guess that what I am saying is that this story has hit a few archetypal bells, themes that are the stuff of myth and legend—the love that does not die.

So that is the angle that I see this memoir—a tragic love story in the great tradition. Radha and Krishna were also childhood lovers who were separated--forever, if we accept the Bhagavata version. On reading the book, I came to feel that this was an archetypal tragic love story with interesting parallels to the Bhagavata's account of Krishna and the gopis, and it seems worthwhile to try to make a bit of sense out of this …

Na hanyate (Part 2)

Antar-gṛha-gatā

Maitreyi recounts an interesting vignette towards the end of the third section of the book, in which she remembers a night when Mircea was playing the piano in his room, which was directly below hers. It was late, 2 o’clock at night, and she and her cousin are unable to sleep. Maitreyi says she will go downstairs and tell him to be quiet. I immediately thought, “Aha! She’s finally coming clean and is going to admit that she did go to his room in the middle of the night.” But of course the cousin says that can’t be done; a young girl just does not go to a single man’s room at 2 o’clock in the morning. Maitreyi makes it as far as the door before she is stopped.

Krishna played the flute and Mircea played the piano. Some gopis made it, and some had to go to Krishna in meditation only.

antar-gṛha-gatāḥ kāścid gopyo’labdha-vinirgamāḥ
kṛṣṇam tad-bhāvanā-yuktā dadhyur mīlita-locanāḥ
duḥsaha-preṣṭha-viraha-tīvra-tāpa-dhutāśubhāḥ
dhyāna-prāptācyutāśleṣa-nirvṛtyā kṣīṇa-maṅgalāḥ
ta…

Na Hanyate (Part I)

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The other day I had to go to Dehra Doon on Foreign Registration Office matters, and in the course of the visit there, I happened to pick up a copy of the novel Na Hanyate by Maitreyi Devi. I bought the book entirely without realizing what it was about. I had never read anything by Maitreyi before, even though she is a well-known writer in Bengal. Seeing how many of her books were available in Hindi translation made me aware of her pan-Indian reputation and so I became interested.

The title caught my eye, since I also tend to like books that make some reference to Hindu shastras. It is interesting to get the insight that comes from modern novelists commenting in this way on such texts. And, indeed, I have not been disappointed. This blog was started on the date given below, and it has taken my more than a month (July 27, 2008) to assemble my thoughts and finally post it in two parts.

The first thing that happened when I actually started reading the book was I felt a slight shock of dis…

Omkarananda/Chakshuh

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I went to Omkarananda Ashram yesterday with Neelkanth and Chandramaniji to see if they had developed any resources for this kind of project. I was assuming that that Itranslator was the tip of an iceberg. It wasn't. That is all they have done and will likely intend to do. Nor did they have a host of typists behind rows of computers typing out Sanskrit texts 24 hours a day... or know of anyone.

Their ashram is very impressive though. Interestingly, the place is run by the Swiss. The current acharya Vishweshwarananda and his right-hand man, Satchidananda, built the place practically from scratch starting in 1982 when they first came, and have turned it into a veritable empire, with guesthouses, yoga ashrams, and especially schools--more than 50 in the surrounding foothills region with a really big one (2000 students) in Rishikesh itself. There is also a college right next door. Their Swiss background shows in the aesthetics, cleanliness and efficiency of the ashram and the work they …

Translating Vishnurata's Bhagavad-gita summary from French

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One of my many projects is, as I have already mentioned, is a translation of a summary study of Prabhupada’s Gita by Quebec devotee Vishnurata Das. He is one of the original translators of the Gita into French and he has done a rather nice job of summarizing the essence of the verses and purport, mixing them together into a coherent whole that builds up a pretty good pace.

Anyway, ever on the lookout for things that promote my conception of sadhana, I pluck out the following from the ninth chapter, which is a commentary on 9.16-19. No doubt my reading is somewhat different from the author’s, but it just goes to show how razor thin the difference separating Sahajiya understanding from the orthodoxy is.
In fact, all that exists is nothing but a manifestation of the Supreme Being. No matter what we may think, the Absolute is not indefinable, but is on the contrary perceptible in everything that attracts, preoccupies and fascinates us. It is up to us to establish the necessary connection…

Last day in Vrindavan

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So I will be heading back for Rishikesh tomorrow, unless something happens. There has been a big agitation by the Gurjars in Rajasthan over the past month, which has disrupted traffic throughout the region. They are threatening to do something really big tomorrow, so this might mean that my direct overnight bus to Rishikesh will not operate. We'll see.

Today I went to Jai Singh Ghera to talk over things with Shrivatsa Goswami. When I got there, I was surprised to see an event of sorts taking place in the main hall. The Friends of Vrindavan was showing a slide show of their achievements to a group from Delhi who are walking along the Yamuna as far as Agra, taking samples of the water and generally speaking to people about bringing the Yamuna back to life. They are called the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. Most people were young college students from Delhi belonging to a group called Youth for Justice. There was also one Gopal Krishna disciple who seemed to feel a little out of place.


Their lea…

Shrivatsa Goswami

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After many delays, I finally got to talk to Shrivatsa Goswami today and I am able to report some good news. It looks like the Grantha Mandir is going to get sponsoring directly from the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts. Through Shrivatsa, they have already been mirroring some of our texts, but not keeping up very well. This means that we will probably be able to hire a couple of typists here and in Rishikesh and also find someone who can learn the database program that Madhavananda developed for the site. Madhavananda will be coming to Rishikesh in July and I hope that we can make good progress on this and other counts while he is there.

Shrivatsa has been working with IGNCA for a number of years and has published 10 books over that time through them. One of them is, of course, Haberman's fine translation of the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.

Otherwise, we covered a number of other topics. Shrivatsa was in form with his own historical obsession, the politics of 16th century Cha…

Prema Das Shastri

I have been going to Radha Raman Nivas around the corner for Chaitanya Charitamrita path in the evenings. This Raman Reti area is actually one that is steeped in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, with the Bhagavata Nivasa, Dauji Bagicha and Radha Raman Nivas forming a kind of siddha triangle for early 20th century siddhas like Kripasindhu Dasji, Gauranga Dasji and Ramakrishna Pandit Baba. Radha Raman Nivas is O.B.L. Kapoor’s guru pat, and you can still get all his books here, in English and Hindi.

The Dauji Bagicha is now the Vrindavan Research Institute, so the grounds are being somewhat preserved and there is a replica of Ramakrishna Das’s kutir. So he hasn’t been forgotten. Bhagavata Nivasa is, from what I have heard, in danger of being ruined by developers, who would no doubt love to stick another five storey retirement home just a few meters from Krishna-Balaram. But for the moment it still has that flavor of a bhajan ashram of times gone by. Lots of trees, a well. A few virakta sad…

Hiranyagarbha

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I have been thinking for a few weeks now that I am going to make a slight move on the name front. I know this is a bit silly, and I wrote a poem not so long poking fun at myself for all the name changes. I was thinking about Madhavananda changing his name, and then I saw just the other day, looking at Nitai’s forum again, that Jijaji and Shiva have yet other aliases that they use. The temptation to change identities seems limitless.

Anyway, my idea was simply to add the name Prabhupada gave me back with Jagadananda, so I would use both the name he gave me and the one that Lalita Prasad Thakur gave me. Just now, in a tea stall in front of Krishna Balaram, I ran into Raghavananda Das, an very pakka looking 80 year old Bengali Brahman with a nicely combed white beard and simple white turban. He took Harinam from Srila Prabhupada in London in the 70’s but came back to India in time for his disappearance. Later he took initiation from Madan Mohan Dasji in Govinda Kund, but still lives near…